Back surgery refers to an operation intended to change a patient’s anatomy, such as removing a herniated disc or straightening their spine. The goal of back surgery is to relieve the pain a patient experiences in their back because of a birth defect or injury. Back surgery is generally only considered after a patient continues to experience pain after several months of undergoing non-surgical treatment options.
A back surgeon would be needed to perform back surgery. They have been specially trained to perform back surgery safely and effectively.
What Are the Benefits of Undergoing Back Surgery?
As previously discussed, the primary goal of back surgery is to reduce or eliminate pain. However, back surgery may also have other positive effects, including:
- Better physical health;
- Increased physical activity and range of motion;
- The ability to return to work;
- Increased work productivity; and
- The ability to reduce medications.
It is absolutely imperative to note that a medical professional is best suited to provide such information. Additionally, they are best suited for advising you in regards to finding a competent back surgeon. You should speak with your medical care providers regarding surgeon recommendations, as well as potential risks and benefits associated with back surgery.
Are There Any Risks Associated with Back Surgery?
In short, yes. As with any surgery, back surgery has considerable risks. Some of these risks include, but are not limited to the following:
- Reoccurring pain;
- Reaction to drugs given during surgery such as anesthesia;
- Blood clot;
- Heart attack;
- Nerve damage, which can result in additional pain, loss of bladder control, or paralysis; and/or
- Recurrent herniated disks.
Once again, a qualified medical professional is better suited to explain these risks to you. They will help determine if the outcome is worth the risk. Another factor to consider is how quickly you can return to work after surgery. You will not likely be able to immediately return to employment after back surgery. As such, you should be prepared to speak with your employer regarding the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).
What Are the Different Types of Back Surgery?
Back surgery types typically include:
- Spinal Fusion: Spinal fusion is the most common form of back surgery. This involves a back surgeon joining back vertebrae together to limit how far nerves can stretch;
- Laminectomy: The back surgeon removes parts of the bone, bone spurs, or ligaments in the back. This is done to relieve pressure on spinal nerves;
- Foraminotomy: The back surgeon cuts away bone at the sides of the vertebrae, in order to widen the space where nerves exit your spine to relieve nerve pain;
- Diskectomy: The back surgeon removes all or part of a disk that has slipped out of place. This slip presses on a spinal nerve, causing pain;
- Disk Replacement: The back surgeon removes the damaged spinal disk and inserts an artificial one between the vertebrae; and
- Interlaminar Implant: The back surgeon implants a U-shaped device between two vertebrae to ease pressure on spinal nerves.
As medicine and science advance rapidly, these are just a few examples of back surgery types. There may be other types of back surgery not mentioned here.
What Is Failed Back Surgery Syndrome?
A failed surgery is one in which a surgical error was made; this is a mistake made during surgery that could have been prevented. There is some risk inherent in any surgery, and patients typically sign an informed consent form acknowledging that they are aware of the risks of surgery. Errors that lead to a failed surgery are those that are beyond what a patient knew were possible before agreeing to the procedure. Had they known, they may not have signed the informed consent form.
Failed back surgery syndrome, or FBSS, does not refer to a specific syndrome. Rather, the term refers to a generalization used to describe a patient’s condition who did not have successful results with their back surgery. These patients experience continued pain after surgery.
Can I Sue my Surgeon for Failed Back Surgery?
There are several parties that may be held liable for a back surgery gone bad. For starters, the back surgeon could be held liable. Any medical professionals who assisted with the surgery may also be held liable, as well as the anaesthesiologist. In some cases, an injured party may also sue the hospital itself.
Generally speaking, a failed back surgery lawyer is essential for lawsuits against surgeons and other parties responsible for failed back surgery. This is because such an attorney will likely understand what is needed to successfully sue a surgeon, as well as how to receive the optimal damages award.
Can Medical Malpractice Occur During Back Surgery?
Failed surgeries commonly leave victims with pain, inconvenience, and financial costs associated with the surgical error. Medical malpractice law states that if an injury or death occurs because of a surgical error, and the error was caused by negligence or could have been prevented, the victim can file a surgery complications lawsuit in order to recover damages.
However, not all failed surgeries are medical malpractice. For a back surgery gone wrong to be considered medical malpractice, and to find someone liable, a surgical error must have been caused by a medical professional’s actions falling below the accepted standard of care. A back surgeon would have a much higher standard of care than that of a family physician.
A back surgeon could be subject to a claim of medical malpractice if they are negligent during the surgery, or negligent in failing to disclose required information to the patient. Some examples of potential negligence caused by a back surgeon include:
- Performing the wrong type of back operation on the patient;
- Failing to remove medical equipment from the surgical incision;
- Leaving the back wound untreated;
- Prescribing the wrong medication, or the right medication but in the wrong dosage;
- Failing to recognize a medical complication from the surgery, which could delay treatment;
- Failing to fully inform the patient of all risks before obtaining consent for the procedure; and/or
- Recommending a procedure when it is ill-advised, or not informing the patient of viable alternative procedures.
The elements for back surgery malpractice will be discussed further below. In short, the injured party will need to prove that the back surgeon owed them a duty of care and failed to uphold that standard, which resulted in injury.
What Will I Need to Prove to Win a Medical Malpractice Claim?
A plaintiff who is suing for medical malpractice for a botched back surgery must prove that:
- The surgeon owed the patient a duty to protect them from unnecessary harm related to the surgery;
- The surgeon violated that duty by operating below reasonable medical standards;
- The patient was injured because of the surgeon’s actions; and
- The patient’s injury was a foreseeable consequence of the surgeon’s conduct.
Successful back surgery malpractice cases will be supported by strong evidence. One of the most important pieces of evidence will be the patient’s medical record. The record will likely show their condition before the failed surgery, or other alleged negligence, as well as any diagnoses or treatment received.
Other evidence could include documentation of the doctor-patient relationship, such as paperwork in your medical record showing that they diagnosed or treated you. In order to show that the doctor was negligent, you will need expert testimony that the treatment fell below the standard of care.
Should I Contact an Attorney about Back Surgery Malpractice?
There are many benefits to hiring a lawyer for a back surgery malpractice lawsuit. As there are generally several parties involved in back surgeries, as well as many elements that must be met in order to prove malpractice, an attorney can simplify the process.
An experienced personal injury attorney will advise you on how to obtain the best evidence possible for your specific case. A skilled and knowledgeable personal injury attorney can also help you understand your rights and obligations, as well as represent you in court as needed.